Last night I was feeling stressed about work. So, instead of going to bed at a respectable time, I decided to turn on the TV and catch up on HBO’s The Leftovers, to help take my mind off things and, as they say, to decompress.Big mistake.I ended up feeling even worse: depressed, tense and just generally bad. I blamed the show—while thought provoking, it’s not exactly uplifting—but today, a new study tells me that the fault is all my own: I should never use media as a stress reducer.
Researchers at Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University have found that people with high stress levels after work who watched television or played video games didn’t feel relaxed or recovered, but instead they had high levels of guilt and feelings of failure. Not good! When we’re particularly fatigued, we’re more prone to think our media use is a form of procrastination and a failure of our own self control.Now, when we’re not supremely stressed, unwinding in front of the TV isn’t all bad.
Prior research has shown that the use of entertaining media produces a “recovery experience” that helps us psychologically detach from work stress and relax, but also provides mastery experience (e.g., when you watch a thought-provoking movie or beat a computer game) and a feeling of control. When that happens, we feel energized after media use and even show stronger cognitive performance thanks to media-induced recovery.
But when you’re experiencing that pit-at-the-bottom of your stomach kinda stress, try something else: Take some time to think about the matter at hand, do some quick exercises (a proven stress reliever), call friends or family, or turn to your computer and take our Stress Quiz for proven tips to relieve your specific type of stress (seriously, it’ll help).Whatever you do, leave the TV off.
MORE: What’s Your Stress Type?